Two People Talking at a TableIOA's Guide for Setting Up a Conference Ombuds Program

Do you need a confidential resource for your conference attendees?

An organizational ombuds is an independent, impartial, off-the-record, and confidential resource for conference attendees to obtain information, seek guidance, and discuss options for how they can deal with concerns that they may experience or observe at a conference. An organizational ombuds can serve both as a valuable resource to attendees as well as a valuable resource for the conference sponsoring organization by providing it with the ombuds' observations and insights into the nature of issues raised in connection with the conference (without breaching the confidentiality of discussions with inquirers).

The International Ombuds Association (IOA) developed this guide of sample documents as a public service in light of the increasing demand for the provision of ombuds services at conferences of professional associations and other organizations. IOA believes that the provision of conference organizational ombuds services is an important development in the continuing effort to provide safe and respectful spaces when large groups of people assemble for their common purposes.

How to Hire a Contract Conference Ombuds

Is your organization ready to start the process of hiring an organizational ombuds? We suggest you to begin by compiling our suggested list of documentation. Once you have started this documentation, you can promote your RFP on the IOA Job Board and/or search for a practitioner on our Outsourced Ombuds Directory. Positions will be publicized widely to IOA members and other subscribers (circulation of 5,500+).

Post to the IOA Job Board
Outsourced Ombuds Directory

Suggested List of Documentation

While the detail or complexity of these documents may vary, IOA recommends that the documentation relating to a conference organizational ombuds include at least the following items:

  1. Member Notice: The sponsoring organization should send their membership a notice explaining that the conference will have a conference ombuds. This should include a brief description of the ombuds role and scope of services provided. Download Notice Template
  2. Request for Proposals (RFP): The sponsoring organization should create and disseminate an RFP for the selection of an appropriate ombuds for the conference. Download RFP Template
  3. Services Agreement: The sponsoring organization should create a service agreement for the ombuds selected to provide the conference ombuds services. Download Service Agreement Template
  4. Ombuds Charter: The sponsoring organization should create a charter setting forth the nature, scope, and duration of the ombuds services to be provided. Download Charter Template
  5. Additional Resources for the Conference Website: Various documents should be included on the website of the sponsoring organization, including an FAQ (list of frequently asked questions), identification and biography of the selected ombuds, and contact information for the ombuds. Download FAQ Template

The documents in this guide are meant to be illustrative and are intended to be adapted to the needs of the sponsoring organization and the size and scope of the conference.

Additional Resource Materials: 

Have Questions?

If you have any questions or need additional advice on setting up a conference ombuds program, please contact the IOA office.